Saturday, February 7, 2009

Potato Planting Time

Plant nurseries and feed stores in south central Texas usually have Kennebec and Red La Soda seed potatoes available in January. I always plant some of these tried & true varieties, but I also like to try a few other varities that look as though they might work. I order these online in the fall, because the seed potato growers I order from are all in the frozen north and are unable to ship early enough for our planting date.

I keep the seed potatoes in the vegetable crisper of my fridge and periodically mist them with water to keep them from drying out. This year, a terrible thing happened. I had some grape juice in a container that leaked. By the time I realized that some of the leaked grape juice had dripped down into the vegetable crisper, the potatoes on the bottom had been sitting in grape juice for several days. :-(

The potatoes that endured the grape juice soak developed blackheart, which is pockets of dark bluish-gray necrotic tissue caused by oxygen deprivation. it's quite likely that this dead tissue would have been cleaned out by earthworms and other friendly soil creatures, but I feared that it would provide an invitation to harmful bacteria or fungi, so I scooped it out.

Since blackheart is not associated with pathogens, I can't see any harm in planting to affected potatoes -- the vines won't have as good a start in life as they would have with more food available to them, but I'm willing to give them a chance.

Potatoes don't grow well in soil with a pH of 7 or higher. Since the soil here is alkaline and heavy clay to boot, I had a load of sandy loam from near the river in Bastrop brought to my yard, to use for Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other plants that do better in slightly acidic soil. I have not tested the sandy loam, but I know it's acidic, because pine trees grow well in that area.


  1. Hi Barb, that's such a shame about your potatoes. Will you be able to plant them anyway? I don't have much experience with potatoes, just started experimenting last fall. Thanks for following my blog!

  2. Michelle, yes I planted about half the potatoes today but ran out of time. Will have to wait until next weekend to plant the rest. Only a few had blackheart. I saved back the ones that were the most affected and will start them in containers, where I can keep an eye on them and see what happens.